MTA to hold first hearings on 3rd track: NHP mayor

Noah Manskar And Neglah Sharma

Village of New Hyde Park officials announced Tuesday a series of upcoming public meetings relating to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial proposal to add a third track to the Long Island Rail Road between Floral Park and Hicksville.

Project planners told village officials the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will hold scoping sessions for the $1.5 billion project on May 24 at the Inn at New Hyde Park, Mayor Robert Lofaro said, along with three other sessions at Antun’s catering hall in Hicksville, Hofstra University and a community center in New Cassel.

At the meetings, the MTA will describe its proposal for the 9.8-mile stretch of the LIRR’s Main Line, and hear public input about things residents think should be considered in an environmental study, the Village Board said.

The announcement follows meetings in the past two weeks between the MTA, state Department of Transportation engineers and officials from villages with street-level railroad crossings to discuss plans for eliminating those crossings, as Cuomo has promised.

At a meeting with the same group of planners scheduled for Thursday, Lofaro said, New Hyde Park officials will receive a draft “scoping document” outlining an environmental study for the project.

“This is the first time we have something physical that we can actually share with (the public),” Lofaro said Tuesday.

At its own public information meeting May 19, the village will present the document to the public and inform residents about the scoping process in advance of the May 24 scoping session.

Village officials want to get the public’s feedback about the project and encourage them to prepare substantive remarks for the meeting with the MTA, Lofaro said.

“We want to show them what we’ve been told and what we know … so we can hear what they have to say and that can shape what our position will be,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Lofaro also said the village attorney has sent the LIRR a letter saying it should have sent villages affected by the project more documents relating to the environmental review as “interested agencies” under state environmental review law.

Other villages along the Main Line have sent similar letters, Lofaro said.

Efforts to reach Cuomo transportation spokeswoman Beth DeFalco on Wednesday were unavailing.

DeFalco has said the MTA will be engaging in an extensive community outreach process as it develops its environmental study and creates plans for eliminating the seven street-level crossings along the corridor, which will increase safety and reduce noise from signals and train horns.

Cuomo has said this third track project is radically different from the MTA’s 2005 proposal. It will be built entirely within the LIRR’s existing right of way and will not involve any residential property takings, he has said.

Local opponents of the project say communities would bear the brunt of construction without reaping any benefits.

Proponents, including business groups, corporations and non-profits, say the track would ease commutes, boost Long Island’s economy and complement the MTA’s East Side Access project to put an LIRR station at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

New Hyde Park’s Village Board also tabled regulations on hookah bars and vape shops again on Tuesday. Officials said they were still awaiting word from the Nassau County Planning Commission on the law.

The law would classify hookah bars and vape shops as “adult uses” in the village code, meaning they could only operate in industrial zones and could not be within 2,000 feet of each other or within 800 feet of a school, church, park, playground, playing field or public library.

Lofaro said he expects the Village Board to pass the law sometime later this month.

When asked by a resident if the law will pass, Lofaro said he is neither for nor against hookah bars, but would like to regulate the locations where they can open.

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Noah Manskar And Neglah Sharma

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